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Lessons to be Learnt From the Hurricane Maria Experience
View of a Section of the Island after Hurricane Maria
Hurricane Maria, a Category 5 hurricane, unleashed its fury on the small Caribbean island of Dominica on the night of Monday 18th September into Tuesday 19th September, 2017. It was the first Category 5 hurricane to hit the island and the most destructive one in the island’s history. In the space of some 7-8 hours Hurricane Maria decimated the island setting it back economically by several years.
No one was prepared for a hurricane of that magnitude; not even the island’s living centenarians had ever heard of or witnessed such a monster hurricane. The last major hurricane which Dominica experienced was David, in 1979. This hurricane experience brings into relevance a number of verses of scripture by which our daily lives should be guided and it highlights some valuable lessons to be learned. Some of us will take heed though many will return to their usual complacency when the vividness of the experience fades.
The following six bible verses are among those which, to me, have become very pertinent after the passage of Hurricane Maria. They carry sound instructions for human behavior which are generally overlooked. It is hoped that every Dominican, post Maria, would have learned a lesson associated with at least one of these verses:
The Holy Book - With Lessons to Guide us
1. Be Wise and Be Prepared
Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten virgins, who took their lamps, and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. Those who were foolish, when they took their lamps, took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. Matthew 25:1-13
This bible verse exhorts us to act wisely and to be prepared. The daily hurricane preparedness tips and announcements aired on the radio by the Office of Disaster Management (ODM) served the intended purpose which was to heighten awareness among residents, of the possible dangers and the preparatory measures to be taken on the approach of a hurricane. There was therefore a level of preparedness. However, there still remained a certain degree of complacency hinged in the belief that nothing serious ever happened.
In 2015, Tropical Storm Erika devastated a number of villages in Dominica, but those whose communities were not directly affected apparently remained complacent; people are more likely to react when they experience things for themselves. Consequently, many were caught grossly unprepared for this catastrophic September 18 event despite the ample warnings from the ODM. It is hoped that post Maria, every Dominican will have become proactive as it relates to preparedness when the hurricane season is announced.
2. Live Simply - Wealth is Easily Taken Away
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. Matthew 6:19
This verse cautions against too much focus being placed on amassing earthly treasures. It would seem that life is all about being successful and this equates to gathering property and wealth. We were shown in no uncertain terms how quickly the possessions that people had gathered over a lifetime were swept away leaving many homeless and destitute.
It was by no means easy to come out when the storm was over to view the remains of what was once your home and all your earthly belongings strewn about, destroyed beyond salvage. You ask yourself what was the point of years of hard work, of scrimping and saving for wet days or for retirement. Look at it now, all gone in a flash. The Maria experience showed that people gather so much unnecessary clutter and that life could be quite enjoyable and probably less stressful if people were content to live more simply.
Possessions Strewn About
3. Build on the Spiritual and Human aspects of Life
For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Mark 8:36
This verse calls on us to be mindful of the spiritual and human aspects of life which are far more important than the material. Often we are so busy working hard to achieve worldly success that we totally ignore the human and the spiritual aspects of life. We have no time for Christian fellowship or relationships. Families break up and children go astray because both parents are so busy working that there is no family time. Parents are almost strangers to each other and to their children; children succumb to peer pressure and other societal ills.
In no time at all, as in the case of Hurricane Maria, all the wealth vanishes – lavish homes, expensive vehicles and other material possessions. Big titles are like nothing when you have lost the material and have been brought down to the same level as the average man on the streets. What is left now are family, friends, neighbours – human relationships; the very things that are often cast aside in the quest for social status and earthly possessions. .
4. We Stand Equal Before God
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28
Here we are being asked to put aside all types of prejudice and to be mindful that we are all equal in the sight of God. There is the tendency to be prejudiced toward the less fortunate, the vulnerable and immigrants - foreign nationals who have come into a country seeking a better way of life. After Maria, people of varied social classes and nationalities found themselves huddled together in shelters praying for God’s mercy. They were all in the same boat! Some had no choice but to remain at the shelters for days, if not weeks after the storm until alternative accommodation could be found.
Moreover, Hurricane Maria created a new category of vulnerable people - some from among the formerly prejudiced; those who had suddenly found themselves homeless and impoverished after the hurricane as well as those who had lost their means of livelihood as a result of it. The lesson is quite clear; that life’s circumstances can change quickly and drastically and there is no certainty about tomorrow. As the saying goes, “Today is mine; tomorrow is yours.”
5. Forgive and Let Go
Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another whenever any of you has a complaint against someone else. Colossians 3:13-23
This is a lesson on tolerance and forgiveness. In times of crisis people act on impulse or maybe instinct. Propelled by desperation and fear persons fled their crumbling, collapsed, uncovered or flooded homes in the middle of the demon storm seeking refuge at the closest possible shelter. There was no time to think about who was friend or foe; where there was feud or where there was none.
Mercifully, the feelings were reciprocated and doors were opened by those whose homes remained secure to take in those in need of sanctuary. Many people literally found themselves seeking refuge with their enemies whom they had found it impossible to forgive for some perceived wrong.
6. Let Your Love Shine Brightly
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; 1 John 4 :7-8
Finally, we are all called to love one another. The bible exhorts us to love - not just our family and friends, but our neighbors, co-workers, the wider society, the world. Our love should shine like a light for all to see. We need to let love guide our actions. We need to spread love and create joy in the hearts and lives of our fellowmen. In doing so we do not only fulfill our earthly mission, but we become more like God.
People died during the hurricane and that’s probably not surprising given its nature. However, many people also died following the hurricane; many elderly persons succumbed, apparently traumatized or grieved by the experience. Most had to be buried hurriedly and unceremoniously as there was no electricity to keep the bodies refrigerated and in some instances no access by road to transport the bodies. The result was that persons were left to find out days or weeks after that a loved one or friend had passed on and had been buried. What made the situation even sadder was the feeling of not having been given the opportunity to say I love you and good bye. We need to demonstrate love always so that when death separates people suddenly, there are fewer regrets.
Hurricane Maria, I think, sent us back to the Holy Book for some important recommendations for our daily lives so that those of us who have the opportunity to pick up the pieces can do so as wiser, more mature persons with a focus on heavenly rather than earthly things.
Make the Bible your Guide
Do you look to the Bible for guidelines to daily living?
© 2018 Joyette Fabien